Learning to paint with pastels…

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for Marla Baggetta’ s  painting class a few weeks ago.  I had just spent an afternoon cruising around with a friend visiting painters during Portland Open Studios.   Whenever I look at a lot of 2-d stuff I get the urge to try to learn to paint…  it’s the color.  And the appeal of doing something new with my hands – I love learning to use new tools and techniques.
I have a ridiculous inventory of unused art supplies.  I have at least three sets of lovely paints, never opened…  water-based oils, acrylics, regular oils.  There’s a cupboard full of tempera paints in various stages of fossilization, fabric paints, and colored pencils.  If I could just buy TIME at the art supply store it would be great.
Then, there is the endless allure of the fabrics, buttons, beads, and millinery supplies  waiting in their own separate room.    My longest running personal joke is to tell people that when my young daughters heard Cindy Lauper’s  song “Material Girl” they really believed it was just another woman like their Mom singing about her yardage collection.  Sigh….
During the first class at Marla’s studio, I realized that here was an opportunity to buy some more serious and pretty danged expensive art supplies.  The class was to focus on Pastel painting – just one of the mediums that Marla has mastered, but one that is unfamiliar to me.  The colors are crazy beautiful, the process fast and  rewarding.  There were about about ten other people in the class, many bringing along full wooden boxes of pastels and beautiful work in progress.  Some had other workshop experience with Marla…  I was the only beginner.
Pastels – and the specialized paper Marla required for the class – are costly.  About $160 got me a modest starter set, but it was easy to see that many colors I might like to use were missing.  I’ve been reading a book I picked up about pastel technique, and there is a whole page about issues around the color green – clearly not well represented in my kit.  And the recommended paper brand  – Wallis – was not to be found in the Beaverton Blick store.  So – for the first working class I showed up with a lesser paper and my starter pastel set.
I’ve been teaching pottery making long enough that I have sort of forgotten how to be a student. And I really wasn’t prepared for how anxious I was about drawing, or “painting” as pastel drawing is described, in the company of a set of strangers, however congenial.  
I was glad to be in the back of the room where no-one could see my easel unless invited to do so.  That was good.  I actually thought about walking out of the class, but then felt utterly silly.  I got out my photo that I had brought…  just a little landscape shot from the back of my farm, and tried to remember about the order of colors and values Marla had talked about that first night.  
Once I started laying down the color, everything was fine.  I’m looking forward to going this coming week.  
You can see Marla’s beautiful work at http://marlabaggettastudio.com.

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